Looking for Anne: How Lucy Maud Montgomery Dreamed Up a Literary Classic

Author: Irene Gammel
Country: Canada/USA
Publisher: Key Porter Books
Date: 2008
Pagination: 312 pp.
Format: Jacketed hardcover
Trim: 9.25” x 6.25”
ISBN: 9781552639856

Looking for Anne: How Lucy Maud Montgomery Dreamed Up a Literary Classic is a book-length study by Irene Gammel that tells in narrative form how L.M. Montgomery came to write and publish her bestselling first novel, Anne of Green Gables. It was first published as a jacketed hardcover by Key Porter Books in April 2008. It was published in the US as Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L.M. Montgomery and Her Literary Classic by St. Martin’s Press in July 2008, with a paperback edition appearing in September 2009. The Key Porter Books edition was rereleased as a trade paperback, with a new afterword (“The Mystery of Maud’s Death”), in April 2010 but with a copyright date of 2009.

From the Dust Jacket (Key Porter Books edition)

By any standard, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables is a stunning success. The novel about a plucky redhead from Prince Edward Island has been in print for one hundred years, sold more than 50 million copies, been translated into more than 35 languages (including Braille), and become the focus of international academic attention.

But why Anne? How did this little book create such enduring interest? The answer, though more intriguing than even Anne could have imagined, is strangely elusive. In her journal, Maud’s quick pen would froth up the tiniest details of her life into dramatic events, but that same pen revealed barely a word about its most famous creation—at least not until many years later. As a result, the novel’s secrets have remained sealed for over a century.

Looking for Anne: How Lucy Maud Montgomery Dreamed Up a Literary Classic is the untold story of both Anne and her creator. Irene Gammel delves into the life of a writer who found inspiration everywhere she looked – from fashion magazines and American mass market periodicals to the quiet landways and babbling brooks of her own community. In her early writing, Maud consciously imitated the formula fiction of the day to create marketable stories for juvenile periodicals, religious newspapers, and glamorous women’s magazines. But unlike so many writers of her era, Maud was willing to push beyond these boundaries. Ultimately, in the storm that brewed up the novel, she transcended these influences to create a twentieth-century literary classic that would conquer the world.

Blending biography with cultural history, penetrating and uncensored, Looking for Anne captures both the spirit of Marilla’s critical probing for “bald facts” and Anne’s belief in the infinite power of the imagination. It is a must-read for anyone who has ever fallen under the spell of Anne with an “e.”

From the Dust Jacket (St. Martin’s Press edition)

In June 1908, a red-haired orphan appeared on the streets of Boston and a modern legend was born. That little girl was Anne Shirley, better known as Anne of Green Gables, and her first appearance was in a book that has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than thirty-five languages (including Braille). The author who created her was Lucy Maud Montgomery, a writer who revealed very little of herself and her method of crafting a story. On the centenary of its publication, Irene Gammel tells the braided story of both Anne and Maud and, in so doing, shows how a literary classic was born.

Montgomery’s own life began in the rural Cavendish family farmhouse on Prince Edward Island, the place that became the inspiration for Green Gables. Mailmen brought the world to the farmhouse’s kitchen door in the form of American mass market periodicals, sparking the young Maud’s imagination. From the vantage point of her small world, Montgomery pored over these magazines, gleaning bits of information about how to dress, how to behave, and how a proper young lady should grow. She began to write, learning how to craft marketable stories from the magazines’ popular fiction; at the same time the fashion photos inspired her visual imagination. One photo that especially intrigued her was that of a young woman named Evelyn Nesbit, the model for painters and photographers and lover of Stanford White. That photo was the spark for what became Anne Shirley.

Blending biography with cultural history, Looking for Anne of Green Gables is a gold mine for fans of the novel and answers a trunk load of questions: Where did Anne get the “e” at the end of her name? How did Montgomery decide to give her red hair? How did Montgomery’s courtship and marriage to Reverend Ewan Macdonald affect the story? Irene Gammel’s dual biography of Anne Shirley and the woman who created her will delight the millions who have loved the red-haired orphan ever since she took her first step inside the gate at Green Gables farm in Avonlea.

Contents

Prologue: The Mystery of Anne of Green Gables (13–16)

Part 1: The Perfect Storm, Fall 1903–Spring 1905

One: Old Memories and New Ambitions (19–30)

Two: The Model for Anne’s Face (31–39)

Three: Building Castles in Spain (40–57)

Four: The Orphan Girl and the Snow Queen (58–73)

Part 2: Writing Anne, Spring 1905–Winter 1907

Five: Romantic Orchards, Kindred Spirits, and a Spring Flirtation (77–88)

Six: Maud’s Bosom Friends (89–99)

Seven: Pagan Love and Sacred Promises: Anne and Diana (100–10)

Eight: Good Enemies and Old Love Letters (111–23)

Nine: Wicked Satire in Small-Town Avonlea (124–36)

Ten: This Old Place Has a Soul, Green Gables (137–68)

Eleven: Red Hair, Puffed Sleeves, and the Rituals of Growing Up (169–84)

Twelve: Farewells and Decisions (185–206)

Thirteen: The Mystery of Anne Revealed (207–19)

Part 3: Anne Takes Off, Spring 1907–Fall 1938

Fourteen: The Most Popular Summer Girl (223–40)

Fifteen: The Vows Kept for Life (241–57)

Epilogue: Dramatis Personae (258–62)

Abbreviations (263–64)

Endnotes (265–92)

Selected Bibliography (293–05)

Acknowledgments (306–7)

Index (308–12)

Editions

Canada

Gammel, Irene. Looking for Anne: How Lucy Maud Montgomery Dreamed Up a Literary Classic. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2008. Jacketed hardcover edition. ISBN 9781552639856.

Gammel, Irene. Looking for Anne: How Lucy Maud Montgomery Dreamed Up a Literary Classic. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2009. Trade paperback edition. ISBN 9781554702695.

United States

Gammel, Irene. Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L.M. Montgomery and Her Literary Classic. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2008. Jacketed hardcover edition. ISBN 9780312382377.

Gammel, Irene. Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L.M. Montgomery and Her Literary Classic. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2009. Trade paperback edition. ISBN 9780312382384.

Reception

“A fascinating and wonderful book. It brings forward an amazing wealth of new information, filling in many gaps (some of which I didn’t even know existed!), and is presented in a captivating narrative that is very well organized and a great read.” —Carole Gerson, Simon Fraser University and coeditor of History of the Book in Canada

“The material is incredible, the interpretive work unsurpassable.” —Holly Virginia Blackford, Rutgers University, Camden

Reviews

Reviews by Cori Dusmann, Janice Fiamengo, Carole Gerson, Benjamin Lefebvre, Nancy Schiefer, and Carolyn Wilker.